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THE POP SHOP: How to Shop with $100 or Less

by Denise Kuan 20 February 2009 3,981 views 15 Comments E-mail Denise Kuan

I’ll be honest with you.

I am not the person to go to for advice on how to save money. If anything, I probably will (and can) convince you to buy $800 Marni platforms. You will then buy them, fall in love, then grow frustrated as you struggle to figure out how exactly you’re going to pay for them. So when I agreed to “update” my friend Kevin’s wardrobe with just $100, I have to admit, I was not thinking in my right mind. I was vaguely familiar with a few vintage and thrift stores around my neighborhood, but picking clothing for other people is not exactly my forte (especially on a strict budget). However, it is something I wanted to work on, and being that I had dressed another friend for 5 interviews on the East Coast and just recently dressed a friend who attended the inauguration and the inaugural parties, the $100 wardrobe update would be a challenge I was willing to take…

I first visited Kevin’s home in Cerritos to scope out the wares in his closet. His small closet was full of dress shirts, dress slacks, khakis and two jackets-a windbreaker and a parka. Neither of which were suitable for “going out” in his words,

“They are just home clothes.”

I only have 4 pieces of “home clothing”, and those are the clothes I use to sleep in, so my goal for the day was to add some basic tops that could work for special occasions or slightly more casual events. Kevin only owned one sweater, also, and it was completely faded. He also owned an IZOD short-sleeved shirt in a print that wouldn’t even be suitable for a picnic blanket. There was much work to be done, and especially on a Sunday, when the stores are only open from 11-6, I would have to step out of my comfort zone for this shopping journey…

Image via Denise Kuan/ THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Image via Denise Kuan/ THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

We started at Jet Rag on Sunday morning at their $1 sale, but seeing clothes scattered on the pavement, we weren’t sure where to start, exactly. Entering the empty store proved to be much easier for us to browse. I knew that by the end of the day, I would need to have at least a sweater, a jacket and a couple of dressy casual shirts in neutral tones, in order to update Kevin’s current “lazy college student” wardrobe. I went upstairs to peruse jackets first, and after going through about 5 racks of jackets, I found a beige-colored cotton bomber. Kevin approved of the color, but it was too small. I discovered a black cotton bomber on the same rack, and it seemed perfect… Kevin only had an oversized windbreaker and a parka in his closet! Ideally, I wanted to find him a sportcoat too, but this would be a tough one. The black bomber fit perfectly, and even came with a hood hidden in the collar. And for $18, how could you reject that?

Image via Denise Kuan/ THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Image via Denise Kuan/ THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

We headed downstairs to browse shirts, suits and sportcoats. I already had in mind to order graphic tees from threadless.com, knowing they continuously held $8 T-shirt sales, so I just wanted to find a not-so-basic shirt that he could wear for a possible after-work date. Kevin already had a whole collection of dress shirts; those don’t see the light of day too often! Three racks of long-sleeved shirts later, I pulled out a nude-colored long-sleeve polo. Kevin didn’t approve of it just yet, but I pulled some tuxedo shirts (I have a weird fascination/obsession with tuxedo shirts) and sportcoats for him just to try, sending him to the dressing rooms. The tuxedo shirts were too small or too big, the sportcoats didn’t fit properly, but the nude polo was a winner. Plus, it was only $12-even better.

I was now down to $70, and I decided that we were close enough to the Beverly Center to warrant a brief trip to H&M. Being that I can’t keep my mouth shut, I had to comment that his jeans were a bit ill-fitting, so I grabbed a pair of slimmer-fitting jeans for him to try with all the clothing I pulled at H&M. I realized Kevin didn’t own any short-sleeved polos, and H&M was selling a few basic ones for $9.90. A fitted, solid grey polo seemed a steal, and a polo should be a staple in any guy’s closet. Kevin actually liked the jeans, but they were not friendly to my $100 budget (they were $40).

Image Via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Image Via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

We were hungry after this, but when I’m working, I get distracted very easily and have to dip into every store that catches my attention. This is how I sometimes forget to eat during the weekends when I’m working–too many places in too little time! I was still determined to find a decent sweater with my remaining $60, and Heritage 1981 was downstairs. The merchandise was disappointing… and a tad overpriced. A scarf that I picked up cost more than the nude polo we bought. We then went to Bloomingdale’s to ask about cologne, though our intent was to ultimately purchase cologne online for a lower price (amazon.com). After Bloomingdale’s, we headed for lunch at Vegan Glory, which served to be a nice break from the 4 hours of shopping we had done. Our next stop was Los Feliz, my destinations being Goodwill and Squaresville, another vintage-thrift shop. Goodwill proved to be quite fruitless, and American Apparel was just around the corner. I didn’t plan on purchasing anything at AA; we were just trying on shirts for size, and for me to provide him with various sweater options. We tried on a few cardigans (one, double-breasted, another, with large buttons). Both looked a bit off (in terms of fit), but this was just for me to have him try different items.

Squaresville was just a few blocks away, and thus we walked quickly down Vermont Street. I was not very familiar with the mens’ merchandise at Squaresville; luckily there were only a few racks of mens’ clothing upstairs, and I was able to find a western-style shirt in black cotton/linen, and a tuxedo shirt! I am firm believer in being able to wear a tuxedo shirt casually. Both shirts looked great, but Kevin doubted the tuxedo shirt… how often would he wear it? It was just too good of a deal to pass up… plus it fit him to a T. It’s vital to have dressy pieces in your wardrobe for those emergency moments, and being that this tux shirt we picked up was not incredibly starched, I felt it could be worn for a dressy casual-LA-date, and the western shirt was ideal, because it was not loud in its details.

Image via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Image via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Kevin bought both shirts (the western shirt was $18, the tux shirt was $16), so I was now at a total of $24-enough for one sweater! Our last stop was the H&M in Glendale at the Americana. Not all H&Ms stock the same merchandise, and I had about half an hour left to shop before my dinner appointment. We rushed upstairs and I quickly darted from sweater to sweater. There was one particular sweater with buttons on the shoulder and a large jersey/reverse jersey stripe pattern I was fond of, but there was only one available, in a size medium. I realized the mens’ section was not very extensive, and just when I thought I had failed in finding a sweater, I discovered a tiny mens’ corner in the H&M-Divided section, and there was a shelf of v-neck sweaters at 30% off. None of the colors appealed to Kevin, but I was drawn to a camel-colored v-neck pullover with a slight olive tone to it, and forced him to try it. His mind changed as soon as he stepped in front of the mirror. I was actually a bit nervous when we were at the register-the regular price was $20, which may or may not put me over my budget. The cashier seemed a tad confused as she was ringing our sale, and then we noticed the price–$15.05!

Image via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Image via Denise Kuan/THE POP FIX, Copyright 2009

Your browser may not support display of this image. At the end of the day, Kevin was exhausted and I still had my dinner appointment (which I had to move back to a later time), but I initially didn’t think I could add some essential pieces to Kevin’s wardrobe for under $100. After all, I don’t have a reputation for being thrifty or resourceful. Whether or not you may consider this successful (could I have found edgier pieces? Could I have gone to thriftier stores? Maybe…), I hoped to show that even on a low budget, you can still accomplish all your shopping needs for spring, without having to live off ramen for a month.

Jet Rag; 825 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038; (323) 939-0528

Squaresville; 1800 N Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027; (323) 669-8464

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  • Christine! said:

    I didn’t think you could do it. I honestly didn’t. After I went shopping with you, even I was contemplating going back to Bally and getting the $265 flats. I EVEN REMEMBERED THE PRICE!

    But all this? Very nice. Very nice indeed.

    You should do more of these. :)

  • Bo Ren said:

    denise, you do wonders with $100…

    is there a jet rag for women???? lets go!

  • Tammy said:

    Wow, those are some great finds and an intense day. Kudos to you for meeting the challenge and providing Kevin with non-dress shirts hah.
    …And all that for $100? So it is possible!

  • berrrrrrrrrna nana said:

    la la la la la!

    amigaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! i love your articles!!!! and thanks for all the crazy ideas, I am gonna follow all your tips and start working on changing my wardrobeeeeeeee!!!! (:

  • Jocelynn said:

    I have to say i really liked your article. It showed me that you can buy a whole outfit under a hundred dollars. Because when i go shopping at Hollister of American Eagle i can spend around ght dollars on just a pair of pants. So it was really helful that you wrote this article because it helps me?? So thanks

    P>S you should do one on a girl just to see if we can get those deals for us!!!

    Sincerely Jocelynn
    CHS Ms. Pendleton

  • TaraCHS said:

    0_o woah these are really worth the price
    but heres the thing who has time to go really searchin for these items
    no body really its rare for ANYBODY to find these things
    like me i would go to the store look and get out because i usually get headaches and is not work the time ya know well anyways thanks for tha help

  • Fedelia said:

    Hi Denise,
    I’m a fellow student of Cerritos High School class of 09! I’m currently taking Mrs.P’s Fashion 1 class, she told us about this site, and after reading this article I don’t regret coming to this site at all. I think it’s amazing that you only spent $100 total. Now days, it’s so hard to go to the mall and not be eager to spend. Just recently I went to downtown Fullerton and visited all the thrift shops and LOVED it.
    I wish I would’ve known about this site & you earlier this would’ve been great to put in our fashion magazine!

    Keep on writing Please.
    Sincerly Fedelia
    Cerritos High Student
    Mrs. P’s Fashion 1 Class

  • Kayla said:

    Heyy, thanks for all the great tips! I never really thought that you could get a whole outfit for less than $100! Usually i spend up to $100 on just a pair of jeans, so it was really helpful to read the article and find out all this information.
    P.S. you should really do an article like this on girls. It would help even more!!

    Thanks alot,
    CHS Ms. Pendleton

  • Ron said:

    Mm, first time reading any fashion blog and it’s amazing how I got hooked on to it already. Haha, great writing. Keep it up (and please write more men’s section for the dudes)

    I actually came across H&M’s Americana (but only in black) My friend bought it from South Coast Plaza the other day and I asked him where he get it. Surprisingly, the cotton sweater only cost about 15 dollars. I thought it would be at least 30 to 40

    Man, I gotta start saving up so I can get some better looking clothing :O

    I also read the girls, and yes it’s really helpful to me too because I always wanted to buy some perfect clothing for the girls I like without killing my budget

    Keep up the good work ! [:

  • Michelle Shen said:

    That Jet Rag place sounds interesting. I want to go there. You got some pretty amazingly good deals. I would love if you wrote more similar articles focusing on girls because I am always on the lookout for fashionable, but affordable clothes. You introduced me to some new stores I had never heard of before and now I am excited to go shopping hunting at these new places.

    P.S. Say hello to your sister for me! (:

    CHS Ms. Pendleton.

  • Josh said:


    You guys are acting like he cured cancer…he just found a few deals. ANy moron with some patience can hit up a few stores and grab clothe for cheap.

    And all he did was find clothe…individual pieces, maybe you’ll be able to layer one, but it ends there (And some of the pieces don’t fit well dude..)

    I understand that high end clothes are expensive and maybe you are mainly paying for the name on the tag, but as anyone will tell you, the quality and fit of these clothes cannot be bought at cheap prices.

    Yes, you bought clothes
    Where they nice clothes, no.
    Did you get a complete outfit, no – Do you even own a tux?
    Will I commend your effort, yes.

    Anyone with the patience to jump between stores, or wait for that sale, or hit up every sale rack there is will find something…but thanks for letting everyone know.

  • Tuxcedo Packages said:

    Tuxedo shirts look better when you are wearing tuxedo. If you wear a regular button down white shirt, it just does not look right.Tuxedo Packages

  • Where to get cheap skinny jeans? - Los Angeles - California (CA) - Page 2 - City-Data Forum said:

    [...] Let’s be real. Who wants jeans from Wet Seal? This website actually has some great advice on shopping cheaply, while still looking fab. It’s called THEPOPFIX.com and it will serve you well. Just check out this link on how to shop for under 100 bucks: THEPOPFIX.COM

  • Residential Garage Doors said:

    Residential Garage Doors…

    How often do you post new updates to your blog? Keep me informed by emailing me. Thx…

  • False Nails · said:

    casual shirts are really great for day to day activitites and it is easy to wash and dry too `,~

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